Obama swings into action with Irish golf gadget

Game Golf device tracks how US president plays and lets him share data with others

President Barack Obama wearing the Game Golf device on his waist while golfing on Martha’s Vineyard last week. Photograph: Matthew Healey/Pool/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama wearing the Game Golf device on his waist while golfing on Martha’s Vineyard last week. Photograph: Matthew Healey/Pool/Bloomberg

Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 11:46

US president Barack Obama has started to improve his golf game using a wearable device created by an Irish tech start-up.

Mr Obama, who is on holiday in Martha’s Vineyard, was photographed last Saturday using Game Golf, a wearable device developed by Galway- and San Francisco-based Active Mind Technology.

The company, founded by Galway-born John McGuire, has raised $15 million (€11.2 million) since 2010 from an array of Silicon Valley and golf heavy-hitters.

Backers include golfers Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood, as well as technology investors Venture51; AME Cloud Ventures, an early-stage fund set up by Yahoo founder Jerry Yang; and Seagate Technology.

Game Golf has partnered with the PGA of America and the Golf Channel to roll out its device, which was designed by Yves Béhar, the Swiss chief creative officer of fitness wearable technology company Jawbone.

Monitoring Obama’s game

Mr McGuire told The Irish Times from California yesterday that his product would allow Mr Obama to monitor exactly how he played his golf and to share the data with others too if he wanted.

“Wearable [technology] is huge right now,” Mr McGuire said. “We’ve seen everything spike since President Obama was seen wearing our device.”

Mr McGuire said Game Golf was only launched 170 days ago but already its users had uploaded 80,000 rounds of golf and six million individual golf shots.

“It’s been used in 55 countries around the world,” he said, adding: “Both the PGA of America and the Golf Channel are investors in the company. They are interested in how to grow the game of golf and how you create something for the 21st century. We are helping them do that.”

Mr McGuire said Game Golf was pitched at both avid and aspiring golfers and it not only tracked how well individuals were playing but also allowed them to compare their play with friends or professional golfers on individual holes.

He said Active Mind Technology planned to create wearables for “multiple sports” but it was growing so fast that golf was its primary focus at the moment. “There is just no time right now,” he said.

Distribution deal

“We’ve just signed a distribution deal in the UK and that will bring Game Golf to shops in Ireland too by Christmas,” he said.

“At the moment you can only buy us online in Ireland.”

Mr McGuire moved to San Francisco in 2010. “We are based between Galway and San Francisco,” he said.

“We are hiring at the moment in Galway, where about one-third of our staff is based, with the remainder out here.”

Mr McGuire said Active Mind Technology employed 32 people in total. He said it was a private company so he could not disclose revenue or sales figures.